The Making of 'One Shining Moment'

15 April, 2020 3 comments Leave a comment

One Shining Moment, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Since I paint in a realistic style, I use photographs as references for my watercolour scenes, so I can get the details right and make viewers feel like they could walk right into my paintings.

Although I occasionally use a photo taken by another photographer (with written permission as dictated by international copyright laws), the overwhelming majority of my painting references are my own photos.

The autumn scene pictured above, 'One Shining Moment', watercolour on panel (no glass) 14 x 22" was inspired by a photo I took while visiting our friends' cottage near Haliburton, Ontario.

The view from their shore is lovely in all seasons, looking out over the lake to a series of forested hills.This lake has inspired a handful of watercolour paintings over the years, including 'Winter Interrupted' (2001) 12 x 21", shown below.

Winter Interrupted, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Here is another watercolour shown below, 'Jennifer's Winter Wonderland' (2007) 10 x 7".

Jennifer's Winter Wonderland, watercolour by Karen Richardson

During another visit to this lake in September 2012, I managed to catch a moment of autumn sunlight highlighting the shoreline trees in the photo below. This 'spotlighting' effect creates a dramatic focal point, emphasized by diagonal lines of the treed slopes as well as dark shadows in behind, and underscored by gentle lake ripples from a faint breeze.

Photo by Karen Richardson  

Lighting makes the difference between a great photo and an ordinary one. Below is another shot taken at a different time that day. While lovely, it has no strong focal point. No single element grabs the viewer and says "Look at me! I'm magnificent!".

 Photo by Karen Richardson

For the last 8 years, the sunlit photo with the strong focal point has lingered in my vast photo reference collection, too daunting to try to capture in watercolour. Finally this spring I had time to tackle a major work, so I took the plunge and developed a large watercolour based on my autumn lake photo.

As I suspected, the sheer scale of the painting and the technical difficulties of masses of tree foliage and blurred reflections would make this a very difficult and time-consuming project. But I kept my nose to the grindstone for 3 weeks, working layer by layer with lots of patience, and prevailed.

I added a tiny red canoe to the sheltered little beach to give a sense of scale to the forest and to help viewers insert their own stories and memories into this scene.

Fortunately I had the foresight to take photos of each stage of this challenging painting as I worked. From these work-in-progress photos, I assembled a short time lapse video, so you can see the flow of this piece to its completion.

Click on the image below to view the 3-minute story:

I am very pleased with how this major work turned out. I feel like it is beckoning me to enter the scene and spend a perfect day exploring the mysteries of this beautiful northern lake. I hope you feel the same pull to become part of this magical place.

For more details about this painting, click here.

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  1. Cornelisse April 17, 2020

    Thank you for the video it’s inspiring to watch and wonder if I could try to similar work. Patience is needed with all the layers to paint. Love the finished project.

  2. Frank Lomoro April 15, 2020

    3 weeks work of intense focus and the concentration to juggle and manage all aspects of the landscape before you.
    Kudos to you.
    This is a complete portfolio of your painting abilities……. Frank

  3. Namaji April 15, 2020

    How patiently and vibrantly beautiful!